What is it?
I wouldn’t blame you if you mistook this new BMW for the 5 Series because it has inherited quite a lot of its genes. What this is in fact is the new 7th generation 3 Series which according to BMW has so much going for it that it will put its immediate competition in more than a spot of bother. Let’s take a look at what the fuss is all about!!
I’ll save the numbers for another day, but I will tell you that apart from looking like a scaled down 5 Series, the new 3 Series is longer, wider, slightly taller, gets an extended wheelbase and extended track widths.
Just like its other siblings the car now gets a larger kidney grille, LED headlamps with L-shaped daytime running lights, while BMW will offer laser lights as optional. BMW's famed Hofmeister kink makes it on the new 3 as well but is now a part of the C-pillar instead of the door. Another interesting detail is the self-levelling hub caps on the wheels. At the rear, the car gets new wraparound taillights that add to a wider appearance to the car.
How is it on the inside?
The moment you step inside, you know this is a driver focused cabin. Like all BMW’s it’s a clean uncluttered layout with very good fit and finish. The instrument control has gone fully digital and similar to what we saw in the X5 and frankly we aren’t really a fan of it. But what we do like is the new 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation and BMW's Intelligent Personal Assistant. The new cabin is also more practical and not to mention more spacious with increased legroom, headroom and shoulder room. Boot capacity is also at a very impressive 481 litres.
On the features front, the new 3 Series gets 3 zone air conditioning, ambient lighting, Heads up display, memory seats, Parking Assistant with reversing camera and latest generation reversing assistant and then some.
How is it to drive?
What we are driving here is the brilliant 330i and while you still don’t get that sweet-sweet straight six, this 2-litre turbocharged 4-banger will get your blood pumping. With 258bhp on tap and 400Nm of torque, BMW claims a 0-100 kmph time of 5.8 seconds. The 8-speed gearbox harnesses all those horses extremely well and it’s an absolute joy going up and down the gears. And its not just performance that’s impressive. With a Jekyll and Hyde character the engine is as silent as a monk when cruising and turns into this angry creature when you hit that sport mode and summon the horses.
This 3 Series is built on the new CLAR platform which is lighter and also gets increased torsional rigidity. What that means is unlike its predecessor, BMW hasn’t compromised on the handling at all. The steering feedback is fantastic and the car just darts into corners with supreme confidence. Thanks to a battery driving aids and supreme mechanical grip, the new 3 just goads you into pushing harder and harder. Ride quality too is surprisingly compliant but there’s only so much it can take. Even with 18-inch wheels the suspension is set up extremely well and its surprising how BMW has managed to make it so compliant. But with appalling road conditions, one does have to baby it a little and going over monster speed breakers will present a problem. With the 330i offering such a good balance of ride and handling it will be interesting to see how the 320d with smaller wheels and a softer suspension setup will behave.
Should I buy one?
We love the new 3 Series and especially in this 330i M-Sport trim, it’s got all the features, it looks good and drives brilliantly. For an enthusiast who loves to drive but cannot afford full M-package, this is as close as it can get!
Where does it fit in?
The new BMW 3 Series continues to rival the Mercedes-Benz C-Class, Audi A4 and Jaguar XE.